Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Thousands of school leavers miss out on 4WDs – are aspirational cars the only option?

With first-round offers being made to school leavers all around Australia this week, the familiar annual outcry has begun. Thousands of aspirational young Australians, who had their sights set on the drivers seat in a new 4WD, will miss out entirely, and so will be forced to now consider their options. Jemma Barwick, 18, from Sydney’s north shore spoke for many of the disappointed when she said: “It’s so completely so not fair. I mean, I so know that I wasn’t going to get into the new top-of-the-line Landcruiser, but to miss out on even an ‘as new’ two-door Suzuki soft top in Bathurst? Whatever!”.

Experts point out, however, that people such as Jemma may be thinking too narrowly in their choice of aspirational vehicles, with so-called Transport, Alcohol & Fucking Ennabler (TAFE) cars being a viable option for many school leavers, particularly those from less aspirational backgrounds. While TAFE cars are typically smaller, older and less reliable than their 4WD counterparts, they are also much cheaper – a TAFE car lasting one year typically costs only about $600, compared to the large loans – ranging from $12,000 to $100,000 – that are the total price of a 4WD drivers seat.

For those with their hearts still firmly set on an aspirational – rather than a merely vocational and utilitarian – vehicle, experts suggest articulation as being the best option for those who have missed out, such as Jemma. Articulation involves driving a small TAFE car, typically for one year only, and then wrapping this up inside the oncoming vehicle, a new 4WD.

Other commentators have made even more radical suggestions. One person has gone so far as to suggest that young Australians think beyond vehicle ownership as the necessary, formal foundation for the rest of their lives.

But is the self-moving person option – which frees up the money and time saved from not owning a vehicle for immediate “real world” use, such as on education – still viable for today’s younger Australians? Prime Minister John Howard strikes a note of caution here, warning that aspirational 4WDs are still the key to lifelong success and happiness for most people, however traditional and stuffy they may be derided for being, among some inner-city circles. Even if you don’t get into the car of your choice first-off, Mr Howard sagely advised one disappointed young man, keep trying – in the end, aspiration will always win out over education.

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